Carbon Emissions From the US Power Sector Reach a 27-Year Low

published: 2015-08-10 15:45 | editor: | category: News

Carbon dioxide emissions produced by the US electric power sector hit a 27-year low in April, the lowest amount for any month since April 1988, according to new figures from the US energy Information Administration. The finding comes days after the EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan, a landmark regulation that aims to accelerate carbon cuts from existing power plants, to achieve a 32 percent industry-wide reduction by 2030.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power sector already fell by 15 percent between 2005 and 2013, stemming from slower economic activity during the 2008 recession, the substitution of the less-carbon-intensive natural gas for coal and petroleum, and growth in non-carbon generation, especially renewables such as wind and solar. The Clean Power Plan calls for reducing emissions another 17 percent between 2013 and 2030.

April is typically the least polluting month for the power industry, because of reduced demand for heating and cooling in the spring. This year, both coal and natural gas fell from their March values -- 18 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

The greater drop in coal generation, which produces 71 percent to 79 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than natural gas, was largely responsible for the overall decline in power sector emissions. It also caused electricity generation from natural gas to surpass coal generation for the first time since the EIA started collecting data in 1973.

The switch only lasted for one month, however. On an annual average basis, coal has lost generation share to natural gas and, increasingly, renewables, but it is expected to remain the dominant source of electricity generation through 2015. How much of the electricity mix each fuel type makes up going forward will depend on how much each fuel costs, as well as overall levels of electricity demand.

Looking at historical trends, it seems unlikely that coal will remain king for much longer. Between April 1988 to April 2015 natural-gas consumption in the electricity sector more than tripled, renewable energy consumption more than doubled, nuclear energy consumption increased 47 percent, and coal consumption decreased 17 percent, according to the EIA.

 

Source: greentechmedia
 

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